A New Description of Merryland.[STRETZER, Thomas]
Bath [i.e. London]: Printed and Sold by J. Leake and by E. Curll.. 1741.
Sixth edition. 8vo in 4s. 200x120mm. , xv, , 48. Engraved frontispiece, woodcut tailpieces. Twentieth century half speckled calf, lettered in gilt to spine, marbled paper covered boards. Very slight shelfwear and rubbing to joints. Internally, there is some toning and a closed tear to the front edge of F1 (no loss of text) and a crease to the top corner of the title page. The author's name has been added in manuscript to the title page. Overall a very good copy.
The introductory letter from the Editor to the Reader explains how this little book is the work of Roger Pheuquewell Esq., the ninth child of an ancient Irish family, who, forced to make his own way in the world, married a rich widow and was “genteelly maintained” by her. He repaid this generosity by making “frequent Journies to Merryland in her Life-time”. When she died, Pheuquewell spent so much time in Merryland that he descended into such moral squalor and financial ruin that he was forced to retire to France. He had, it seems, Pheuqued not wisely but too well.
Merryland is, of course, the female body and the author’s “Journies to Merryland” are… well, you get the picture. Phequewell/Stretzer’s double-entendres were popular in the eighteenth century, Merryland forming a subset of contemporary erotic literature much of which was published by the spivvish Edmund Curll. Indeed, so popular was Stretzer’s work that this book ran to ten editions between 1740 and 1742. To us, A New Description of Merryland seems remarkably unerotic but it is funny. The tone moves between satire: “King Charles II…was in close alliance with Merryland and it flourished exceedingly in his Days. We have had Ministers, who preferred its Welfare to that of their own Country, and Bishops who would not be displeased to have a small Bishoprick in Merryland”; and smut: in exploring Merryland, “There are People who incline sometimes to go about by the Windward-Passage but this I do not so well approve; in some Circumstances indeed it may be convenient, but I believe it is commonly done more for sake of Variety than Conveniency”.